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How Does Laughing Gas Work?

happy dental patient

Many people are too afraid to pay their dentist regular visits. For patients with dental phobia, this imperative routine is not a laughing matter at all. Most of us, though, ask this one big question: How does the laughing gas work? You may view more online for other details, but these pointers are meant to give you what you need to know.

What is Laughing Gas?

Nitrous oxide or laughing gas (also known as happy gas) is considered as an effective and, more importantly, safe method to heal pain and reduce anxiety. It is a recreational drug that is commonly used for dental procedures.

Laughing gas is also known as nitrous oxide. It also goes by its simple name, nitrous. This type of gas is nonflammable, tasteless, and colourless. It has a bit of sweet flavour and odour. Chemically speaking, nitrous oxide consists of two nitrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule. Both are the most common types of gas in the air that humans breathe. Having said this, we can assume that it is safe to use for as long as it is correctly formulated. What it does to the body is that it slows down its reaction time. Once administered, it induces a euphoric calm, plus it relieves pain symptoms and feelings of anxiety. This process is a form of sleep dentistry that must be administered by skilled dentists or medical practitioners. Once dispensed, it has few temporary side effects. There have been no documented long-term effects related to this drug.

When is Laughing Gas Used?

laughing gasAside from the fact that rockets use nitrous oxide for recreational motor racing, this type of gas is also used in the medical industry. Laughing gas is involved in many dental procedures in surgery and dentistry. It has been used as an anesthetic and analgesic since 1844.

It was when Dr H. Wells, a dentist, used it while extracting his tooth. He applied it to himself. Since then, it has become widespread in the health industry. It also has a euphoric effect when inhaled, which leads to it being treated as a drug for recreation.

It is most often used for patients who experience anxiety during each dental procedure. Dental phobia or dental anxiety is a common condition affecting approximately 9% to 15% of adults. This mental health condition should be taken seriously, and this is the reason why laughing gas dentists exist. They assist patients to go over this anxiety through effective sleep dentistry.

What are the symptoms of dental anxiety?

The most common symptoms include sleep deprivation, an increase in anxiety level, nervousness, and shortage of breathing prior to and during the treatment.

It’s great to know that, with sleep dentistry, you can finally have a more positive experience when you’re with your dentist. Medical technology keeps on finding its track in discovering better options in this modern age.

How Does Laughing Gas Work?

The specific mechanism of nitrous oxide’s course of movement in the body is yet to be finalized despite its common usage. Generally, laughing gas controls ligand-gated ion channels. Three specific effect mechanisms are the following:

Anti-Anxiety Effect or Anxiolytic

anxious dental patient

Studies show that the anxiety-fighting inhalation effect of nitrous oxide comes from the activity of GABAA receptors. The central nervous system uses the GABAA receptor as the principal neurotransmitter. In layman’s term, GABAA or gamma-aminobutyric acid functions as the chief recipient of chemical messages in the brain. It then slows down or prevents any process from continuing. Which is why it is also referred to as the inhibitory neurotransmitter.

Analgesic Effect or Painkiller

Laughing gas lowers pain by establishing an interaction of the endogenous opioid system and the descending noradrenergic system. It initiates the release of endogenous opioids. How this happens, though, remains unknown

Euphoria Effect

Laughing gas creates euphoria by releasing dopamine which is a stimulator of the brain’s mesolimbic reward pathway. This also contributes to the analgesic effect.|

How Do I Prepare for Laughing Gas?

Make sure to consume a light meal the day before and the actual day of your dental appointment to prevent you from experiencing an upset stomach or getting dizzy during the procedure. You MUST also avoid eating after about four hours of inhaling nitrous oxide,

Is Laughing Gas Safe for Everyone?

The dentist administers the laughing gas by using a pure oxygen mask. Then, there will be a mixture of oxygen and laughing gas. Its effects on hearing, visual, mental performance, and motor ability are only temporary. Laughing gas is safe for use in dental procedures. It has both neurotoxic and neuroprotective effects. However, limited exposure to the chemical does not cause any permanent impact.

What are the short-term side effects of laughing gas?

Most patients’ experience is limited to only the pleasurable aspects of laughing gas. Some of the most common side effects are a sense of excitement, lightheadedness, shivering, fatigue, nausea, and tingling in arms or legs. In sporadic cases, a minority of patients experience hallucinations, sound distortions, and vomiting.

How Fast do the Effects Wear Off?

Within seconds after your dentist takes the mask off, the effects immediately wear off. This characteristic makes this gas not so similar to anesthetics. You will feel like you’re back to your usual self within seconds. You may go back to your regular tasks as soon as you leave your dentist’s clinic.

What are the Risks from Inhaling Laughing Gas?

doctor observing and talking to patientThe primary risks during dental procedures are inhaling a compressed laughing gas directly from its canister. This may cause severe lung damage or even death. If not mixed with oxygen, inhaling pure nitrous oxide causes oxygen deprivation effects or hypoxia. This means experiencing fainting, low blood pressure, and possibly a heart attack. These risks are comparable to people who inhale helium.

Exposing yourself to laughing gas for too long makes you experience vitamin B deficiency. It is also risky for pregnant women as they may encounter numbness and problems in their reproductive system. In very extreme instances, there’s a probability to be allergic to laughing gas. Your dentist will observe during the operation if you have a fever. If so, he or she will remove your mask and do the best possible solution to bring you back to your normal state before continuing the treatment.

Is Laughing Gas Procedure Right for Me?

If your emotions are stable and your lungs are healthy, this procedure can be your solution for dental phobia or anxiety. Laughing gas is suitable for people of all ages, young and old. Medical professionals have proven this fact throughout the years. There is no doubt that sleep dentistry has created positive links with the medical industry for so many years.

At the end of the day, it is one’s responsibility to improve his or her oral health. It even becomes a different story and a more challenging task to maintain it. If sleep dentistry seems to be the best solution, there should be no reason to hesitate nor miss that chance of reaching that prime level of oral health that you deserve. After all, our overall well-being will always be our top priority.